Crusaders defeat Highlanders in first trial
February 7, 2014
Andy Ellis (l) and Israel Dagg both found the try-line for the Crusaders © Getty Images
The Crusaders have opened their season by scoring four tries to two in a 28-15 win over the Highlanders in their Super Rugby trial match Motueka.
Heavy pre-match rain and a soggy field detracted from the spectacle although it didn't stop the Crusaders racing 28-3 ahead midway through the third quarter. The Highlanders responded with late tries to former Melbourne Rebels hooker Ged Robinson and centre Malakai Fekitoa.
Both teams made a series of changes throughout the game although the Crusaders appeared to gel better, particularly on counter attack. They were playing together for the first time, having conducted an inter-squad practice match last week.
It was the Highlanders' second game of their pre-season campaign, having narrowly beaten the Brumbies in Queenstown last week.
All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg crossed early for the Crusaders followed by a try to scrum-half Andy Ellis, both of which were converted by fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal. A 14-0 quarter-time advantage became 21-3 at half-time after wing Nafi Tuitavake scored a long-range try in response to fly-half Willie Ripia's penalty for the Highlanders.
The Crusaders fourth try was scored by centre Kieron Fonotia, a member of their wider training group. It was converted by Colin Slade, in his first appearance since returning to the Crusaders following three injury-disrupted seasons with the Highlanders.
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league